The least interesting part of comics, for me, are the comics themselves. After a while every ghoul tale or Western drama or superhero opera starts to look the same; the juvenile comics aimed at the pre-teen group are unreadable, and the romance comics push the most absurd notions of human interaction.
The ads are different. The ads bring back more memories than the comics themselves. I can’t tell you what the Kingpin said to Spidey before he knocked him across the room, but I remember the grainy pictures of the kids who sold seeds, the promise of 150 Army Men, the Polaris sub (fits two!), the poorly-printed Ju-jitsu ad, the poster of a snarling armed criminal with all his karate-sensitive pain points highlighted, Charles Atlas making me feel guilty for not being Charles Atlas or even trying, 500 free stamps, peace-sign patches Mom could iron on my jean jacket, Van-Dyke Moustache kits, and of course the X-Ray Specs. They probably couldn’t see through girls’ clothing. Even if they did work you’d just see bones. But they’d be girl bones.
This site is devoted to the advertising in old comics. It begins with illustrated pseudo-comics, moves on seed-and-salve selling, muscle ads, guns, cereal, candy, bikes, the ads of the 60s and 70s (my childhood, and hence of great interest to the world) and finally, ten tons of stuff that doesn’t belong elsewhere.
--Lileks April 09
Site redone in 2014; Comic Ads redone in 2020.
PS: a note on sources: these came from the Comics newsgroups on Usenet in the early 2010s, the work of many pseudonymous scanners who've done a grand job of saving the past. None are taken from Internet sites.